FFAR Awards Emergency Funds to Researchers at Colorado State University to Combat Bacterial Leaf Streak of Corn

An image of bacterial leaf streak in corn. Photo courtesy of Kirk Broders, Ph.D., Colorado State University.

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit organization established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, awarded $148,499 to scientists at Colorado State University (CSU) to investigate bacterial leaf streak, a disease with limited treatment or prevention methods, that is causing yield losses for corn growers in the western corn belt, including western Kansas and Nebraska and eastern Colorado, where the disease is most severe. University of Nebraska and University of Illinois will collaborate on research projects led by the CSU research team.

Bacterial leaf streak is characterized by narrow, wavy-edged lesion that may be tan, brown or orange-yellow in color and may range from an inch to several inches on infected corn leaves. The disease was first identified in the U.S. in 2016. It has quickly spread to fields in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, and South Dakota.

Colorado State University, University of Nebraska, and University of Illinois are matching the Foundation’s grant for a $296,000 total investment. Additional support is also being provided by the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee and the Nebraska Corn Board, as the growers in these states have prioritized this disease as one of their top concerns.

“This research is important for the corn industry, but it will also help other industries be prepared as this disease spreads in the U.S.,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., executive director of FFAR. “By responding rapidly to this emerging issue, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research hopes to create solutions that will help farmers and reassure their many customers in the United States and around the world.”

According to the latest estimates available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers produced an estimated 15.2 billion bushels in 2016, a record crop, at 175.3 bushels per acre. The United States exported more than 46.6 MMT (1.8 billion bushels) of corn in the 2015/2016 marketing year.

Bacterial leaf streak has been observed on field corn, sweet corn, popcorn, and volunteer corn in several states. As the pathogen is new to the U.S., there has been little research on management strategies to limit the spread or severity of bacterial leaf streak, which is caused by the pathogen Xanthomonas vasicola pv vasculorum (Xvv). CSU researchers are taking a four-pronged approach to addressing Xvv by:

  1. Investigating the ecology and epidemiology of Xvv,
  2. Modeling the genetic and phenotypic diversity of Xvv,
  3. Generating effective disease mitigation strategies, and
  4. Creating outreach and education materials for growers.

    Portrait of dr. kirk broders

    Kirk Broders, Ph.D. Colorado State University

Kirk Broders, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management with an expertise in crop pathogens at Colorado State University, will lead the team of collaborators.

“As Xvv is new to the U.S. and is only reported from one other country, South Africa, we have a very limited understanding of the lifecycle of this pathogen including how the pathogen survives the winters, where initial inoculum comes from at the beginning of each crop season, how the bacteria spreads from plant to plant and long distance, what climatic variables favor disease development and spread, how many other plant species Xvv is capable of infecting or using as alternate hosts, and if this bacteria will be able to persist and thrive in all corn growing regions of the U.S.,” said Broders.“We plan to address these knowledge gaps and be able to relay the information to growers as quickly as possible in order to limit future yield losses.”

Co-principal investigators on this project include:

• Tamra Jackson, Ph.D., associate professor at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
• Tiffany Jamann, Ph.D., assistant professor at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

The grant is issued through the Foundation’s Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program, an initiative designed to prevent and mitigate damage from emerging pests and pathogens through short-term research funding. Applicants are encouraged to form broad-based coalitions to increase research collaboration and maximize the mitigation potential of each grant.

Learn more Broders and his work at: http://broderslab.agsci.colostate.edu

###

About the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit organization established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. The FFAR Board of Directors is chaired by Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and includes ex officio representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Science Foundation.

Learn more: www.foundationfar.org Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Overcoming Water Scarcity

Continue

Agriculture uses 70 percent of the world’s accessible freshwater. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Overcoming Water Scarcity Challenge Area addressed water use efficiency in agriculture by developing water conservation and reuse technologies, improving crop and livestock breeds, creating improved agronomic practices, increasing the social and economic tractability of conservation practices and enhancing the efficacy of Extension services.

FFAR’s Sustainable Water Management Challenge Area builds on earlier work to increase water availability and water efficiency for agricultural use, reduces agricultural water pollution and develops water reuse technologies.

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Healthy Soils, Thriving Farms Challenge Area increased soil health by building knowledge, fueling innovation, and enabling adoption of existing or new innovative practices that improve soil health.

The Soil Health Challenge Area advances existing research and identifies linkages between farm productivity and soil health, while also addressing barriers to the adoption of soil health practices.

Protein Challenge

Protein Challenge

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Protein Challenge Area sought to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of diverse proteins.

The Advance Animal Systems challenge area supports sustainable animal production through environmentally sound productions practices and advancement in animal health and welfare. Additionally, the Next Generation Crops Challenge Area develops non-traditional crops, including plant-based proteins, and creates new economic opportunities for conventional crops to increase future crop diversity and farm profitability.

Food Waste and Loss

Food Waste and Loss

Continue

About 40 percent of food in the US, or $161 billion each year, is lost or wasted. FFAR’s 2016-2018 Food and Waste Loss Challenge Area addressed the social, economic and environmental impacts from food waste and loss through research that developed of novel uses for agricultural waste, improved storage and distribution, supported tracking and monitoring, minimized spoilage through pre- and post-harvest innovations and changed behaviors to reduce food waste

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area addresses food waste and loss and supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.

Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability

Continue

Supporting innovation is necessary for sustainable results. Over the last 50 years, farmers have tripled global food production thanks to agricultural innovations. Forging the Innovation Pathway to Sustainability was a 2016-2018 Challenge Area that focused on understanding the barriers and processes that prevented the adoption of technology and research results into sustainable practices.

Urban Food Systems

Urban Food Systems

Continue

The 2016-2018 Urban Food Systems Challenge Area addressed feeding urban populations through urban and peri-urban agriculture and augmenting the capabilities of our current food system.

The Urban Food Systems Challenge Area continues this work and enhances our ability to feed urban populations.

Making My Plate Your Plate

Continue

FFAR’s 2016-2018 Making My Plate Your Plate Challenge Area focused on helping Americans meet the USDA 2015 Dietary Guideline recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, including research to both produce and provide access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.

FFAR’s current Health-Agriculture Nexus Challenge Area supports innovative, systems-level approaches to reduce food and nutritional insecurity and improve human health in the US and globally.